In Europe the metal band Primal Fear has been been kicking ass for over ten years now. They have played for thousands of fans in just about every major music festival you can think of including Wacken Open Air, Bang Your Head, Sweden Rock, Metalmania, Monsters of Rock and a bunch more.
Ralf Scheepers, the singer of Primal Fear, has a voice that should be legendary amongst all metal fans. His multi-octave range has been delighting fans all over the world, but in the U.S.A. both him and his band are still largely unknown.
Hard Rock Hideout had the opportunity to speak with Ralf about Primal Fear’s up and coming U.S. tour, their new album 16.6 (Before The Devil Knows Your Dead) and some of the history of Ralf’s storied career. Enjoy!!
HRH: How old were you when you first started singing?
Ralf Scheepers: I first started singing when I was nine or ten years old. I noticed that when I sang along with the radio it wasn’t that wrong (laughs). I never intended to be a musician, it just came with birth. I tried out in a school band when I was sixteen years old also playing the rhythm guitar and singing which I couldn’t really do at the same time. In the end, I just put away my guitar and started singing in heavy bands in the area of Stuttgart. That is how my career started.
HRH: What drew you into heavy metal?
Ralf Scheepers: Actually when I was 16 – 18 it was exactly the age when New Wave of British Heavy Metal came up with bands like Iron Maiden Saxon, and Judas Priest. When I first heard Unleashed in the East the first time, I was totally knocked out. It brought me into heavy metal.
HRH: I have listened to some of your music with your band Tyran Pace, and was blown away with how good it was. It is a shame that not too many people got to hear that great band you were in.
Ralf Scheepers: Thank you. When I look back at it, I thought my voice sounded like a little kid of course a voice evolves. It was just the beginning of everything.
HRH: A lot of singers’ voices start to deteriorate as they age, but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all with you. On your last couple of releases New Religion and 16.6, you are singing better than ever. Your voice hasn’t lost anything over the years. If anything, it has only gotten stronger. What are you doing to keep your voice in such great shape?
Ralf Scheepers: Thank You! I ask myself that too. I try to be healthy. I am 44 of yearsof age now. I need to warm up voice a lot more than I did twenty years ago. It is a pretty tough way we are singing. With the heavy metal singers belting it out every night. They really harm their vocal chords with the stuff they are doing. Everyone mostly sings too loud. That is the same with me. I really scream like hell. Nowadays the technique is really good when recording in the studio. I am really happy that I can record my stuff at home. When I am recording at home, it doesn’t mean that I have technical stuff which helps me. I take my time because I am a perfectionist. I don’t leave stuff on the hard disc. Maybe five years we would have left it on the hard disc. This way it it sounds better and more and aggressive the way I want it.
HRH: With the screams you have been cutting loose on your albums, you have one incredible instrument.
Ralf Scheepers: Thank you.
HRH: You recorded a bunch of cool albums with Gamma Ray back in the early 90’s. Why did you leave that band?
Ralf Scheepers: We were together for five years. I was living still in Stuttgart, also now. Gamma Ray is coming from Hamburg, the other members. The technology wasn’t where you could swap mp3 files and load your dat files into your sessions and compose your songs that way. That is the way we are doing it now between Sweden and Hanover. Back then it wasn’t possible, the technology wasn’t there. The guys wanted me to move to Hamburg. I couldn’t do that. I needed to work to pay for my way of life. Music wasn’t paying for it. That was one of the reasons we parted ways. The other reason is well known. I made the application to Judas Priest. I told the guys that I did it. They asked me what I would do if Judas Priest asked me to be the singer. I said I would go, without disrespect and everything. They understood, but in the end there was another factor. The feeling was not that good anymore. Before I made my application Kai and Dirk started singing their own songs, which is their own right of course. In the end it was a sign that they may not need a vocalist anymore.Everything came together within one month and we went our seperate ways. I was a short time of bad vibes for a couple of months. We are still friends. I don’t want to talk shit about Gamma Ray, and they don’t talk shit about me. It was a good time, it was a learning phase. I really appreciate the time. I don’t want to talk bad about it. It was only good.
HRH: So you still keep in touch with Kai Hansen?
Ralf Scheepers: Yes, we met in Norway at the end of April. They played the night before we played. We arrived one day early. We met them and had a good time. It is always a good time.
HRH: Tell me a little about you trying out for Judas Priest.
Ralf Scheepers: I didn’t try out. I sent demo tapes, CD’s, and live video from Gamma Ray. I got this letter back from the management from Jane Andrews that the guys were interested. There was a really long time that I had to wait. Glen Tipton was writing his solo album at the time. So many guys sent their application in they had millions of tapes to listen to. I understood it would take a long time. I got the promise I would be invited, but I never got invited to make the audition. From the view of now, everything is ok. I totally understand why they took Tim “Ripper” Owens. He is a really good vocalist, and a very nice guy. We now have contact with each other, we are musical friends. Everything is fine. Also with Judas Priest, when I met the guys KK, Glen and Rob. Everyone is nice and fine. We have respect for each other.
HRH: I have heard your cover of “Metal God” from the Primal Fear album “Metal is Forever”. I can’t believe you didn’t get the job.
Ralf Scheepers: Thank you. I am more satisfied with the”Exciter” cover with Gamma Ray. I am really happy with. I just came into the studio. It was a time that we were already separated. We still had a good time and were good friends. We said lets do this tribute thing, Exciter from Judas Priest. We all liked them. Everyone in the band liked the live version of it. I was signing it live and it was really amazing. We were having a good time and you can hear it. It was really good.
HRH: After Gamma Ray, you had a band called Just Priest?
Ralf Scheepers: Oh yes, It was just a time that I didn’t know if I might be the vocalist of Judas Priest. I was preparing myself a little bit, to go through all of the albums and learn the songs. Which I already knew before, but learned to sing it for the possible audition that never happened. We played some shows here and there in Stuttgart. It was no big deal behind it.
HRH: Was Just Priest the precursor for Primal Fear?
Ralf Scheepers: Yes, the thing is, there was one show where a couple of the guys of the cover band couldn’t do it. I invited Matt and Tom from Sinner to do it. As I sung in the studio for Sinner some lines. We had a good conversation. We said lets hook up and write some songs. Japan was waiting for material from me. They wanted to continue to work with me. I asked Matt and Tom to write some songs together. They did the Just Priest show, and we all became friends.
HRH: Moving foward to Primal Fear, 16.6 is your eighth album. You have maintained the same lineup with minimal changes over the years. Magnus Karlsson joined Primal Fear for the new album. You worked with Magnus briefly on New Religion right?
Ralf Scheepers: Yes, that is exactly what I wanted to say. We had some problems in the studio with the guys that we had back then, which really denied to play the guitar, and didn’t like the compositions and everything so. We invited Magnus to play some solos here and there and also Henny who is also a member now. The reason why Stefan left because his wife got pregnant again, he still had his daytime job which was getting pretty much for him. He said he in a friendly way that he couldn’t do it anymore, and we went our separate ways in a very friendly way. We immediately called up Magnus because he is an outstanding talent and a good composer and song writer. We called him up if he wanted to join Primal Fear. He was happy to do it. We didn’t know what was going to happen. It is pretty important for a band how a guy acts on stage, and he behaves on the tour bus, and if he can cope with everything in the end. He is one of the guys that can cope better than one of ours. He is great. He is fitting perfectly into the band both musically and personally. He is a nice guy. The thing with Henny, he was again taking the place for Tom Naumann because we had problems with him in the studio. We called up Henny because we had a good time in the Nuclear Fire era. We called him up. He was absolutely hoping to be the guitarist again. Hopefully we have our final lineup now.
HRH: What was it like working with Magnus on the new album? Was the recording process different for 16.6?
Ralf Scheepers: Yes, the difference was Matt, Henny and Magnus met up at Magnus house in Sweden to compose 80% of the album. They made a demo and preproduction there. The sent me the stuff into mp3 files, I extracted it and loaded it into Pro Tools sessions and bounced my ideas onto it. That is how we work now. Many of the lyrics and some of the vocal lines were already fixed by Matt, as he is a vocalist too, and Henny also made a lot of the melodies on the album. The rest of the 20% of was from my side on 16.6. Hopefully next time, I will have the time to team up with the guys to compose songs in one room together. It is still a good thing to compose songs in a rehearsing room or one room. It is good vibe if it has the original feeling behind it. There are also advantages in composing it in different parts of the world. You can take your time, and think on your own about your ideas. There advantages and disadvantages of both kinds of working.
HRH: The one thing Primal Fear has not done yet is conquer the United States. You are kicking off your first U.S. tour starting with the Rock Gone Wild Festival in August. Are you excited to come play in a major festival in the U.S. in front of a bunch of new fans for the first time?
Ralf Scheepers: We are very excited. Everyone is looking forward to it. The thing with America to be honest is always to be honest the time of musicians was holding us back. Guys were still working like Stefan and Me. It was simple as that. I still have to work to keep my life standard. Music doesn’t pay for my family and my house and stuff. I have to go to work. In the end, everyone is looking forward to come to the states now. It is about time to bring good stuff over there to a tour, even if it is a small tour. Hopefully we picked the most important cities of the States, without being disrespectful to the other cities. We would like to come everywhere, but it isn’t possible.
HRH: 16.6 is doing pretty well in Sweden and Germany right now.
Ralf Scheepers: Yes, we are really lucky to be on the charts. We are at 46 in Sweden, 52 in Japan and 28 in Germany. We are hoping now for America. The album came out last Friday. Hopefully we will get the chance to hit the Billboards there. It is a dream of course.
HRH: Has piracy hurt Primal Fear?
Ralf Scheepers: Yes this is one thing that really made me a little bit mad. There is so much work with this stuff you know.. Of course I always understand both sides. The end result is very good media to have good advertising and stuff. It can also have a bad side where people download this stuff, even if we have this water sign in the audio files that is really dangerous. A guy can really get caught if he puts into torrent or wherever. You really get him it. It is a really expensive thing that the record companies do to prevent piracy. In the end, it hit us again.
There are always black sheep out there. We could give out any samples to whoever for magazines or whatever. I don’t want to blame anybody. Sometimes if the music goes to a friend, and he does it in the end. It is always a bnd thing when you see your album out there one week, or even one month before it is released. It brings you down a little bit.
HRH: It takes money right out of your pocket. That really has to hurt.
Ralf Scheepers: I want to explain that. The money thing is a hard factor to talke about. We aren’t doing this to be millionaires anymore. The eighties are over where musicians and rock stars were wealthy. Nowadays, rock stars are still having a day time job to keep their life going, and this is also coming from this piracy in the end.
HRH: Primal Fear and Sinner have new albums out now. Will you play all Primal Fear songs in your live set, or will you throw some Sinner songs in there now?
Ralf Scheepers: We will only do Primal Fear songs. We set the songs together. We rehearsed the stuff because Saturday we had the first show with four new songs in the set list. The festival set list was 60 minutes. But if we go on a big tour, we will have a 90 minute set list with six songs off of the new album. We are really looking forward to that. We have a good vibe, and I think we can really deliver the goods.
HRH: On several of your album covers you have had a metal eagle, and on 16.6, you have a dark raven like figure. What does the new figure represent?
Ralf Scheepers: We wanted to have a new shape again. We wanted to get away from the Seven Seals and New Religion shape. We wanted to keep the eagle at a Primal Fear mascot somehow. This time we chose this dark shape more because it really fits with the title. Of course, the word devil is not new to heavy metal. The sentence before the devil knows your dead is pretty strong as an album title. This is a good expression for a heavy metal album. We sent the idea off to our artist, and she sent this cover back and everyone was amazed. We thought it was great.
HRH: You just released a video Six Times Dead (16.6). Do you have any more videos planned for 16.6?
Ralf Scheepers: No, this is it. The videos are not played on MTV anymore or on Vivo here in Germany. I don’t know how it is in the States with all of the channels that you have, but here in Europe it is not played so much. We did this video so it could be played on Youtube and the homepage, and myspace or wherever. The fans are watching it online more than on television.
HRH: Where is the best place for fans to find out more information about Primal Fear?
HRH: Thanks a lot for your time today Ralf. I will see you at Rock Gone Wild in August.
Ralf Scheepers: Thank You! I am looking forward too it.
A few months ago I reviewed Badmouth’s debut here on HRH, and I’ve been a big fan ever since. Badmouth finished the year tied at #3 on my album of the year list, which I would say is pretty good for a debut considering the other 3 bands at the top of my list have all been around for 10 years or longer. If you haven’t heard Badmouth you are missing out big time because songs like “Pedal To the Metal”, “Last Train”, “And Take Your Toothbrush With You” are serious ass kickers. Of course when the opportunity came to interview bassist Chris LeMon and lead guitarist Randy Joy I jumped at it. In my opinion Badmouth is one, if not, the best new band of 2008 and I have a feeling they are going to be making a lot of noise not only in 2009 but in the years ahead too.
HRH: For the people that may not be familiar with Badmouth can you give us a little bit of the band’s history?
Badmouth: Well, it all started in the summer of 2007. 5 friends who wanted to make GREAT music, tired of the music scene of today. We wanted to write music close to our hearts…the kinda music we grew up on. We never discussed how Badmouth should sound it all came naturally. All 5 of us have different influences from Punk, Country, Powerpop to Heavy Metal…and all that mixed together became what you hear on our debut album.
HRH: “Rivethead” is my favorite song off the album and one of the best songs I’ve heard this year. Is there a story behind it?
Badmouth: The song is based on a book with the same name….but I guess people can relate to those lyrics in different ways.
HRH: Do you think it will be released as a single?
Badmouth: Yes, hopefully it will be released as a single in March/April.
HRH: I’ve been looking on youtube for videos from the album, but I haven’t been able to find any. Are there any plans to film any videos for the singles?
Badmouth: We haven’t done an official video yet. There is a “Heartbreaker” video in the making, our latest single (the cover of the Pat Benatar hit from 1979)…that will be a video just for the internet and hopefully it gets its release by the end of January…And then we plan do a video of “Rivethead” to be released as the same time of the single, a video that will also be released to the Music Television, so hopefully everything will work out and you got something to look forward too…
HRH: The sound of “Last Train” and “And Take Your Toothbrush With You” really remind me of Backyard Babies would you consider them an influence on Badmouth?
Badmouth: Backyard Babies are a great band, but wouldn’t say that they have influenced us directly. We’re the same age and have a lot of similar influences so guess that’s why you can hear that…also we live in the same town, Stockholm….influenced by the streets..lol
Badmouth: Like I mentioned before we have a lot of different influences. I think the one band we all have in common is Guns’n’Roses…then also Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper,Elvis, Ramones, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash and Cheap Trick have probably influenced us all in different ways…
HRH: Paul Sabu produced the band’s album how did that partnership come about?
Badmouth: Paul heard some of the demos we recorded in the fall of 2007. He loved the sound and contacted us asking if we wanted to work togther…and we said..YES!!! Its been a great experience. Paul is a great, great guy and its been an honor to do this album with him, he really took the best out of our sound and made the album sound exactly like we wanted, and its an impressive career he has behind him and he has worked with a lot of our influences like Alice Cooper and David Bowie…
HRH: With so many Swedish bands getting attention from fans and record companies is it hard for a band to stand out and make a name for themselves?
Badmouth: Guess its the same whatever country you are from…its hard today to get the music out if you aren’t one of the big bands that can put millions into promotion. We’re doing this an independent way and working hard ourselves. I think a lot of bands sit back and relax just cause they have been signed by a label. Badmouth ain’t nothing like that! We’re working hard 24/7 to get the word of Badmouth out there…of course we hope our music will stand out. We don’t think we sound like anything else today, not saying that we sound original but we sound like Badmouth, we feel that on our album we have 10 different songs and sounds and not 1 song with 10 different titles…then of course it’s up to the listener to decide but hopefully they feel that way too..
HRH: A lot of the bands coming out of Sweden seem to be heavily influenced by the 80’s Hollywood Sunset Strip days is the club scene like that also?
Badmouth: No, I wouldn’t say so, but I think a lot of people would like it to be…actually the club scene for rock ‘n’ ‘roll in Sweden is pretty small and there are a lot of bands struggling to get gigs and attention…We’re trying to avoid the current “Sunset Strip Revival” cliche trend.
HRH: Do the bands support each other or do they keep to themselves?
Badmouth: A lot of bands support each other but also a lot of bands keep to themselves…guess its the same over the world…
HRH: What are some of the bands coming out of Sweden and Scandinavia you like or would like to go out on the road with?
Badmouth: There are a lot of great bands, well one band we talked about earlier of course, Backyard Babies..We have a great band in Sweden called Marvel…and a lot of other bands for example Fatal Smile,The Poodles, Bullet, Danger, The Scams, Hammerfall…And hopefully we will be on tour soon…We are READY!!
Badmouth: Yes, this is a contest called “The Nordic Challenge”. It’s being arranged by MySpace and Sweden Rock Festival…For people outside of Sweden, this is the biggest festival in the country with more than 35,000 in attendance, and its 90 bands playing over 4 days..and ofcourse Badmouth wants to play at this festival..So we entered this contest with the aim to win. And we made it thorugh the first round of voting which took place between december 12th til january 6th, a couple of hundred swedish bands were competing from start and now there are only five left, and Badmouth is one of them. The final voting round is between january 9th – 23rd So if you’ve got a MySpace account you can vote one time per day and myspace account, and if you dont have a account, sign up now, and if you got several accounts vote from them all!:) Its 5 bands from 5 regions in the finals (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland & International) and you can vote on one band from each region, so if you support another band from another region you can also vote on Badmouth and vice versa….
HRH: What are the band’s touring plan as far as the U.S. is concerned?
Badmouth: The plan is to play and tour as much as possible, right now we have nothing 100% confirmed but we wanna play everywhere! Hopefully we’ll be able to get to the States in the fall. We would love to come there and meet our American fans…
HRH: Are there any plans for Badmouth to play any of the festivals here in the states such as Rocklahoma, South Texas Rockfest, or the Rock Gone Wild Festival?
Badmouth: We would love to play them all…so the people doing the bookings for the festivals are more than welcome to contact us…and they will get a killer show from one of the rising bands from Sweden…And of course we are in discussion with a lot of festivals around the world, hopefully we will get something confirmed soon…Can’t think of a better way to spend the summer of 2009..
HRH: Is there anything you would like to pass on to the Badmouth fans?
Badmouth: Yes, THANK YOU!!! YOU FUCKIN’ RULE!!! We have the best fans and we are so happy to be doing this, and believe me…this is only the beginning…so help us spread the word of Badmouth, demand us on the radio and at the venues in your town…Can’t wait to meet you all on the road…2009 is the year of BADMOUTH!
Note: I received an email from Chris informing me that all voting for the Nordic Challenge has been suspended and the final bands winning the slots to play the Sweden Rock Festival would be selected by jury now instead.
Last week HRH had the chance to talk to Saliva guitarist Jonathan Montoya before the band hit the stage at Sammy T’s in Huntsville, AL. I’d never talked to Jonathan before so I was a little hesitant about how everything would turn out. But it went great Jonathan was extremely easy to talk too with a funny sense of humor. Be sure and check out Cinco Diablo when it hits stores Dec 16th.
HRH: You guys are releasing Cinco Diablo on Dec 16th unfortunately the only song I have heard so far is “Family Reunion”. Can you tell me about some of the other songs on the album?
Jonathan Montoya: Yeah, they are a little darker, a little heavier. You know it is the classic Saliva sound, like “Family Reunion” is a classic Saliva staple sound. The rest of it we took a step towards the dark side, though not lyrically. Lyrically the songs are a lot more positive but the music is a little more darker, a little more Alice in Chains you know but it still Saliva. We’ve found our sound and we took the best of all our records and put them together.
HRH: What songs besides “Family Reunion” would you like to see released as singles?
HRH: Everyone is under the impression the title “Cinco Diablo” is because this is Saliva’s fifth album. But it is actually Saliva’s sixth album is there another story behind the title?
Jonathan Montoya: Well fifth major label release and and there are five members in the band so it could be both.
HRH: Bob Marlette has produced three Saliva albums did the band work with him this time around?
Jonathan Montoya: Yeah we did.
HRH: Is the recording process easier when you have worked with a producer in the past?
Jonathan Montoya: Oh yeah absolutely. I had worked with Bob before in a band called Full Devil Jacket
HRH: You joined the band before “Blood Stained Love Story” was recorded. Was it easier for you going into the studio with the band this time since you recorded and toured for the last album?
Jonathan Montoya: Yeah but I was in the band before, I filled in for Chris Dabaldo and they brought me in no questions asked. I had helped them get a record deal so when my band broke up they called me and we didn’t even have a tryout. Our first show was in front of 33,000 people. It was pretty crazy.
HRH: Were you able to have more in-put in the songwriting and the recording process?
Jonathan Montoya: Yeah absolutely, most of the last album was done when I got in the band. So this time I had a big part.
HRH: In the past Nikki Sixx has written a song for Saliva, does Cinco Diablo have any guest song writers?
Jonathan Montoya: Well John 5 from Rob Zombie & Marilyn Manson wrote 3 songs with us but only one made the record. I just wrote 2 songs with DJ and Nikki for Sixx:AM.
HRH: I saw an interview with you on Dean Guitars website and you mentioned a song called “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” whatever happened with it?
Jonathan Montoya: It didn’t make it, man we had so many songs that some didn’t even get to be heard. But that was one that Josey and me really wanted to push but it’ll end up somewhere, sometime. We’re definitely going to record it cause me and Josey were talking about it yesterday and how we want to make sure that happens.
HRH: You’re previous band Full Devil Jacket was from Jackson, TN and the guys in Saliva are from the Memphis area. Did you know the guys in the band before you joined?
Jonathan Montoya: Yeah we did a bunch of showcases with them and actually Full Devil got signed first and I literally dug their c.d. out of the garbage at Capitol Records and gave it to our A&R guy at Island and said “Hey you might wanna check these guys out.” Next thing I know we were doing a show in L.A. and Josey was in the crowd and he told me they got a deal with Island.
HRH: I’ve heard where bands put new members through different initiations after they join. Did the guys do that to you?
Jonathan Montoya: (Laughing) No I think they got initiated not me.
HRH: The Memphis area has a pretty storied past in music history, what is the music scene there like now?
Jonathan Montoya: (Laughing) To be honest Shitty pretty much for all intents and purposes it is pretty terrible.
HRH: I read where you have another band called Supernova Syndicate and an album was recorded but never released what is the status of that project?
Jonathan Montoya: Well maybe someday, hopefully. I wrote or cowrote all the songs and sing, it’s not that much different from what I am doing now. It maybe a little more like Guns N’ Roses mixed with Saliva a little more raw. Still the same big arena rock chrous like Motley Crue. I sound like Marilyn Manson meets Axl Rose when I sing. It’s on myspace if anyone wants to check it out ( http://www.myspace.com/supnernovasin).
HRH: The first leg of Saliva’s tour just wrapped up and it featured Drowning Pool, Tantric, and Jet Black Stare. What was that leg like?
Jonathan Montoya: It went alright you know the first of it was a little tough but you could see as the songs got played more on the radio there were more and more people every night. Finally the last week of the tour we sold out so it’s like finally we’re getting some results.
HRH: The band announced dates for the second leg is the band line-up going to be the same or are there some changes?
Jonathan Montoya: Well right now we aren’t out with anyone, we are just headlining and playing with local openers and stuff.
HRH: Now days a lot of tours are going out with 3 or 4 bands on the bill. Do you think that trend is here to stay?
Jonathan Montoya: Yeah you have to with the economy, you have to pack the bill with known names.
HRH: In the interview on Dean Guitars website I was talking about earlier you said Pantera was a huge influence on you have you had a chance to read Dimebag’s biography that was recently released?
Jonathan Montoya: I’ve got it in the drawer right below me right now.
HRH: What are some of the bands out today that you listen too or would like to take out on the road with Saliva?
Jonathan Montoya: Jet Black Stare, I really like them. I can’t think of anymore that stick out in my head, that is why I don’t listen to radio anymore they don’t give new bands a chance, that is why I like Sirius so much you do get to hear something different.
HRH: What are some of the bands you would like to take out with Saliva?
Jonathan Montoya: Uh I don’t know…I know I would love to go out with AC/DC!
HRH: Saliva’s music has been used in everything from video games to wrestling soundtracks and theme songs and Sony promoted the heck out of the Playstation 3 with “Ladies and Gentleman”. Do you have some unique promotions planned for Cinco Diablo?
Jonathan Montoya: Oh I’m sure we do but we don’t have anything to do with that. Our management takes care of all of that.
HRH: Is there anything you would like to say to the fans before we let you go?
Jonathan Montoya: Yeah buy the record don’t download it!! Buy the record and help a starving musician out!!
If you have been a regular reader at HardRockHideout.com, you have heard me carry on more than a few times about this awesome new band from Northern Ireland called The Answer. Hard Rock Hideout recently had the pleasure of speaking with The Answer’s Cormac Neeson. We talked about the history of The Answer so far, the bands’ current tour with AC/DC, and their soon to be released album. Take a few minutes, and get to know The Answer!
The Answer is:
Cormac Neeson – Lead Vocals
Paul Mahon – Guitar
Micky Waters – Bass
James Heatley – Drums
HRH: Tell us a little about the history of the Answer. How long have you been together?
Cormac Neeson: We have been together close to eight years. We got together. Originally it was Paul Mahon’s idea to get a band idea together to play this hard rock like we are currently playing. They have been in out of different bands from fourteen years of age. They wanted to do it right this time. They got in touch with me. I was back in America at the time. I was working in a pizza place in New Jersey. They sent me a letter and said if you are coming home any time soon to look them up and get the band up and running. As luck would have it, I was heading home a month later to enroll in the University. As it turns out I was in the same class as Paul, which was quite a bizarre twist of fate. So we got a practice organized and got James on board on drums, and after that we haven’t really looked back since.
HRH: It almost sounds like it was meant to be.
Cormac Neeson: It sounds like it yeah, I am afraid so. (laughs).
HRH: Who are some of the key influences in your music?
Cormac Neeson: Key Influences would included a lot of late 60’s and 70’s rock and roll bands, like Led Zeppelin, The Who, and The Rolling Stones and stuff like that, but also I suppose The Black Crowes and a lot of varying influences. Paul is into the 80’s metal. We all have different influences, but the music we play is kind of where we all meet in the middle.
HRH: Are you listening to any of the current artists that are out there today?
Cormac Neeson: I suppose today we are into bands like Queens of the Stone Age, The Raconteurs. Any bands that are playing the hard style of rock and roll we would be in to.
HRH: How do you think the music scene differs in the United States as compared to Ireland?
Cormac Neeson: I think there are a lot more choices in America. I think a lot of that has to do is the number of radio stations playing the different genres of music over here. At home everybody listens to two or three of the same radio stations and thats about it, you know. Definitely there is a lot more diversity, which is very healthy, I think at home. A lot of people kind of fall into specific categories that are heavily influenced by whatever radio DJ they are listening to. Over here you have so much choice. People tend to make up their own minds, which is a very good positive thing I think.
HRH: I first found out about The Answer when you won Classic Rock Magazine’s Best New Band of 2005. What was it like receiving such a cool award, and how has that affected your career so far?
Cormac Neeson: That was great. That was the first taste of success that the band had. We haven’t even released our first album at that stage, it was all based on a couple of EP’s that had been released before hand. I suppose more than anything else, it was a great boost and great encouragement, and obviously it got us a lot of positive press off of the back of it. It was a nice platform, from which to release our debut album and kind of take things from there. It was an enjoyable experience that I can look back on. I got to meet Jimmy Page that night. It was great.
HRH: Prior to your tour with AC/DC, you have played with Whitesnake, Aerosmith, Deep Purple, The Who and in front of 80,000 people with the Rolling Stones in Serbia. What has it been like playing with so many classic hard rock acts?
Cormac Neeson: It has been amazing. If I had to pick a favorite gig that we have played, that would probably be it. The sheer number of people, standing and clapping their hands. It was breath taking. It was as far as the eye could see. Up to this point, we haven’t managed to play for more than 80,000 you know. The fact that is was supporting the Rolling Stones you know, I mean The Rolling Stones and AC/DC are probably the two greatest rock and roll bands still currently touring. It was unbelievable and breath taking.
HRH: How have these bands reacted to your music? Have they given you any advice?
Cormac Neeson: Different bands react in different ways. Some bands like to keep to themselves. Other bands like to take us on, and take us in as part of the family. AC/DC is one of those bands. Brian Johnson is consistently coming in to the dressing room and making sure that we are all right, and having a good time. When we toured with Whitesnake we were made part of that touring family which was great, you know. A band is going to give you advice, it is always to keep our heads down, to not to do many drinks and drugs. The usual kind of stuff. It is nice to know we have friends in high places that keep an eye on our progress.
HRH: When did you find out that you landed the AC/DC tour, and what was your reaction?
Cormac Neeson: We found out literally, two weeks before we packed our bags and headed for America. It was a whirlwind. It was an unbelievable shock for the band, but obviously a great shock. One day we were in London recording B-Sides for a future single. He took us out for a pint and sat a paper face down on the table in front of us, and said boys, I have some band news. You can’t do the European tour that we had planned for you this November. I said “Why”, he said flip that page over and you will find out. There were 42 dates on the page with AC/DC for all of across America. It was a real cause for celebration. It happened so fast we really haven’t had time to step back and think about it all. We have a week and a half off at Christmas. We will take stock of where we are at. This is a great opportunity, and hopefully we will make the best of it.
Cormac Neeson: We were yes. That was the initial plan, but obviously you can’t turn down a band like AC/DC if they ask you to come on tour with them. Black Stone Cherry are a great band. We were very much looking forward to that tour, but it wasn’t meant to be.
HRH: How have the U.S. fans reacted to your live show?
Cormac Neeson: Very positively. I think the cold weather, the rain and the wind, helps get everyone into the arena. We are playing to 80 to 90 percent in arenas every night. We were told and warned in fact that the support slot for AC/DC is no easy task. They haven’t played here in 7 years or whatever it is. You expect crowds to be very impatient. We have been getting standing ovations every night, and a lot of hits on our myspace, and a lot of positive stuff. We seem to be really devolping a good solid fan base over here, which is great considering this is our first tour of America.
HRH: Last Christmas you performed with Paul Rodgers at the Planet Rock Christmas party, which you later turned into a live CD later on. How did that opportunity come together, and what was the experience like playing with Paul?
Cormac Neeson: It was a dream come true for myself. Paul Rodgers is probably my greatest influence as a singer. It all came together, just a lucky coincidence really. Paul Rodgers was supporting Led Zeppelin the night before our gig in London. He got word that we were playing, and said he wanted to come down. We suggested that he get up and do a song or two. He came down, and we rattled through “Mover” and “The Hunter” during soundcheck, and decided we would give it a go. We had a great gig from the offset, and the fact that Paul got up and did two songs with us was amazing. It was also great that we caught it on tape and could release it as an official bootleg. It was nice to have that part of history documented.
HRH: Why did you choose to release the Never Too Late EP instead of your CD “Rise” in the U.S.?
Cormac Neeson: Unfortunately we tried very hard to get our first album released over here, but we just couldn’t get the label to get a date over here in time to release it. By the time we released Never Too Late a few weeks ago, we have our second album ready to go with the released date of 17th of February. Rather than release two albums in such quick succession, we thought we will release an EP, and whet peoples appetites a little bit. Then we will hit them with a full album in February. People can always go back to Rise if they like what they hear. Our opinion is the second album is better than the first, so why not give America the best we have to start with. Then people can trace us back to our roots.
HRH: Do you foresee Rise getting a release in the United States at a later date?
Cormac Neeson: I am sure it will be released later on down the road. We don’t want to short change our audience. We will keep putting out fresh material. If there is a demand for it, we will put it out there.
HRH: You recently had a couple of your songs used in the video games Guitar Hero World Tour, and Pure for the Playstation 3. How did that come together?
Cormac Neeson: To be honest, I don’t really know, their must be somebody in the gaming industry that likes the band, and puts our songs in those games. That is an unbelievable opportunity to get our name out there. Guitar Hero sells millions and millions of copies worldwide. In fact on the AC/DC tour, coming in every day, I hear “hey man I was playing your songs on Guitar Hero last night, drinking beers”. Between that and that AC/DC tour, and our new album, it is all coming together nicely for us.
Cormac Neeson: I have my fingers crossed. (laughs)
HRH: You have a new album coming out in February. What will the new album be called?
Cormac Neeson: The new album will be called Everyday Demons.
HRH: What was the writing process like for the new disc?
Cormac Neeson: It was very positive, and completely different from the process of the first album. Obviously, every bands’ first album is going to be a collection of tunes basically dating right back to the very beginnings of the band. In our case we had three or four years worth of songs to choose from. In contrast, this album was written in six months just before last Christmas. As a result it is a lot more consistent, and a statement that we are trying to make is a lot more fluent. The band is captured where we are right now in our song writing, musical ability and everything like that. It is a true statement where The Answer are currently at. It is good.
HRH: How long did it take you to record it?
Cormac Neeson: It took us two months. We did 5 weeks in L.A., we did a couple of weeks pre-production before we came to L.A. and then Paul did some more guitars in London for about a week and a half on the way back from America. It was very intense and very hard work and not a lot of breathing space, but the end result was well worth it.
HRH: With so many cool videos under your belt already, do you have videos planned for the new record?
Cormac Neeson: We actually just made a video for a song called On and On, which is the third track on the album. It is going to be the first single on the album. We had a gig in East Rutherford, New Jersey recently. We had the day off the next day, and went to Brooklyn to a big studio and set up a lot of different backgrounds, and shot a video for On and On. It was great you know. I got to a lot of work with a with a beautiful model which is never a bad thing.
HRH: Do you know when the single will be released?
HRH: What do you feel are some of the highlights of your career so far?
Cormac Neeson: Nothing is bigger than the current tour we are on, but as we already mentioned the Serbia gig with the Rolling Stones, we got to meet them as well, they are living legends you know, signing with Paul Rodgers and supporting Paul Rodgers in the Albert Hall was amazing. We always really enjoy getting out on tour for ourselves. We would like to be playing for an hour forty or an hour fifty minutes, getting to really entertain the audience for long stints of time. We did a couple of tours in Australia and Japan which was a great experience. It is always great to get back to Belfast at the end of a long tour to do homecoming gigs.
HRH: How long do you expect to be on the road with AC/DC?
Cormac Neeson: We honestly don’t know, we are hoping that they will give us some of the European bits. Nothing has been confirmed yet, so we can’t really presume that we are doing that. We are on tour with them until the end of January all across America. If that is all we get, we will be happy with that, but obviously if we get some more gigs, we will be even happier. (laughs)
HRH: If not, hopefully you can come back to the U.S. and do a tour of your own.
Cormac Neeson: Absolutely, as soon as we come off of tour with AC/DC, we are going to start having to do tours of our own in America, and Europe and Japan and Australia. It is going to be a very busy couple of years.
HRH: What would you like to tell all of your fans?
Cormac Neeson: I would like to say keep your ear to the ground, and don’t forget about us. Check us out. If you are into your rock and roll, we are a good honest hard hitting rock and roll band. I think you will enjoy us very much. I hope to see you very soon at a gig of our own, where we can entertain you for a couple of hours, and have a few beers with you after the show.
It isn’t every day when you get to talk to a guitar legend like Yngwie Malmsteen. I have listened to his music since I was a teenager, and never imagined that I would one day get the honor to talk to him. I have heard lots of unpleasant things about Yngwie over the years, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I interviewed him. What I found was a person who was very easy to talk to, and at times quite humorous. He was a total class act during our interview session. We talked about his new album “Perpetual Flame”, his history and influences, and his opinion on music today.
HRH: How did you start working with Ripper Owens?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Well, what happened was I did this album a little different than normal. Normally you have like a cycle where you make a record, you go on tour for that record, then you come home and start writing songs for a record and do another tour. This time around I was just writing songs as I was touring for the last album. I eventually had enough music to cut real songs. I went in recorded like 30 songs. Then I went back on tour and so forth. The songs all sounded different when I came back. Everytime I came back I wrote some guitars, I wrote some bass, I wrote some lyrics. Eventually the songs started taking shape so much that they had names and they were finished. Songs like Death Dealer and Live to Fight (Another Day) and so forth. I realized that the singer that I had at the time (Doogie White) he would not fit the new songs, so Tim’s name came up. I invited him down to Miami. I said hey do you want to come down and sing with me a bit. He came down, I showed him a couple of songs, and that was it.
HRH: You worked with him once before on the Bat Head Soup CD right?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Yeah, but that was different. I was in one studio and he was in another one.
HRH: Ripper’s voice really seems to compliment your style of playing. “Death Dealer” and “Red Devil” are two of the coolest songs I have heard by you in quite some time. What was the recording process like for Perpetual Flame?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Thank you. It was a little different because I needed drums. I went on tour. I came back, I had guitars and bass recorded and lots of lyrics. I came back again added keyboards. I had my Pro tools on my laptop and I was hanging out with a guy who had a string section who put some strings on it. All of the recording was done and Tim came in and just sang the lyrics I had written, and that was it. It was pretty simple. It was done in sections.
HRH: How does Ripper compare to past singers that you have worked with?
Yngwie Malmsteen: His voice really fits in with almost exactly what I hear in my head. When I write songs like “Death Dealer” and “Damnation Game” I know what I am looking for. That is why I decided Doogie wasn’t going to cut it. I feel that Tim fits right in.
HRH: This album is a lot heavier than the last couple of discs you have put out. Was that your intention when you were writing the music?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Not in the beginning, but the songs started coming together, and I knew that is what we were going with. In the beginning, I was kind of letting it flow . That was one of the reasons why I changed singers too, because the songs were starting to get so heavy, that there was no way that Doogie would have fit in.
HRH: You have a pretty large collection of guitars. Which guitars did you use while recording Perpetual Flame?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I used a lot of different ones. Fender Strats, and different bases of course and two Marshalls. The Fender guitars I used on this album from the late 60’s and the Marshall amps are also very old.
HRH: What are your Tour plans for the new album?
Yngwie Malmsteen: We have done Europe in the summer, not so much for the album, but we just toured. We did five weeks in America, by no long shot was this complete tour but it was good. We will be going to South America, Japan, Australia, America and Europe again. It is going to be a big tour.
HRH: There are quite a few festivals popping up in the United States. Do you see yourself performing at one of the new musical festivals like Rock Gone Wild, Rocklahoma or Rock the Bayou?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Yeah, sure why not, that is always cool.
HRH: The number of guitarists that cite you as an influence is pretty much endless. Who inspired you to pick up the guitar and make music such a huge part of your life?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I grew up in a very musical family. My older brother and sister they were very good musicians. I was the youngest. I got my first guitar when I was five years old. On the news they showed the day that Jimi Hendrix died. They showed him setting his guitar on fire at Monterey Pop. I saw him burn his guitar and I knew that is what I wanted to do. I started playing the guitar the same day. A year later or so I got a record from sister. She gave me the Deep Purple Fireball album. I thought it was very cool. When I grew up in Sweden there was nothing there. It was completely empty from rock and roll and music or anything like that. There was classical and Jazz, but nothing like what it was here. The impact of hearing Purple was very big on me. I really like that. The biggest influence on my music are Bach, Vivaldi and Niccolò Paganini. If you listen to my stuff you will hear it.
HRH: If you could give advice to any young guitar players out there, what would you tell them?
Yngwie Malmsteen: It all depends on what they want to achieve. If they want to achieve greatness and be like something that is out of the ordinary. It is a lot of hardwork. There are no shortcuts to that. Obviously, if they wanted to learn how to play, they can learn bits and things and carry on. It all depends on what they want to do. If they want to be serious, there is a lot of hard work involved.
HRH: There have been a lot of classic hard rock and metal acts reunite over the last few years. Ron Keel has recently announced the reunion of KEEL for several live shows next year. Can you see yourself doing a Steeler or Alcatrazz reunion in the near future?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I have been contacted a lot about that. I don’t know. I will never say never.
HRH: What is your opinion on the current guitarists of today?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I haven’t really kept track of them. I am so extremely busy with what I am doing myself. When I am not playing music I am usually doing other things. Playing around with my Ferraris and playing Tennis and things like that. What I understand there is a new group of kids that are very serious about playing which is great, I think that is a good thing.
HRH: Are you still a big Ferrari Fan?
Yngwie Malmsteen: (Passionately) Ohh Yeah!
HRH: Have you seen the new Spider Model that has just been released?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Yeah, but I am more into the vintage Ferarris.
HRH:Why do you think hard rock/metal was able to maintain it’s popularity in Europe and Asia but not here in the states?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I am not even sure about that. What I do know is Rock and roll and metal never goes away ever. It took the back seat in America in the 90’s. In Japan and South America it was still really big. I never followed trends so I don’t know the exact function of them. I think there must be somebody in league to changing things. When the glam metal thing of the late 80’s became to glammy, then instead of having two bottles of hair spray in your hair, it became better not to wash your hair at all. To me its all trend stuff. I don’t follow that stuff. I just do what I feel is the right thing. I don’t know what the reason is for that. Its not fashion.
HRH: Did your involvement in the G3 Tour with Joe Satriani and Steve Vai help get your music back out there in the U.S.?
Yngwie Malmsteen: It had some impact, sure, yeah. I think that it helped all three of us, but I think the most important thing now, that you can see nowadays are kids are being introduced to this music through video games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero. This seems to be a big influence on kids. Its a new thing to them.
HRH: What do you think about the new generation of music fans being introduced to hard rock and metal through games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band?
Yngwie Malmsteen: When we were younger it was Radio and MTV. It is just a different way of getting it. If they have a game that has rock and roll in it, that is going to introduce the kids to the music. That is good. It is cool.
HRH: Are their any plans for your songs to be added in future editions of the games?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I think so yeah. I am pretty sure that is happening right now. (A few days after our interview, it was announced that some of the songs from Perpetual Flame would be available for download in the game Rockband.)
HRH: Your son Antonio is 10 now right? Has he taken on your passion for music yet?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Yeah, Not in the same way that I did. When I grew up there was no TV, nothing. The guitar could be my whole life. The kids today have internet and TV and games and all that stuff. When he does pick up the guitar, he is a natural for sure. For sure he is going to play. I was so extreme, I was playing 24/7 all my life. That was bizarre anyway, kind of like a (laughs) a circus freak you know.
HRH: There is a new line of Yngwie Malsteen Play Loud tribute guitars from Fender coming out next week. What you can you tell us about those?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Fender had made my guitars for 20 years now. The model has been improved on and updated. It is just fantastic, that is why I love to play it. This is a special series of just 100 pieces that is an exact replica of the guitar that I brought with me from Sweden when I was a teenager. It has the exact same rust particle scratch, feels the same, smells the same. It is amazing. I have never seen anything like it my life. It is scary, it is frightening. It is limited to 100 pieces.
HRH: I saw how the even mimicked your bite marks on the guitar, and wondered how they did that.
Yngwie Malmsteen: I wondered if they had some witchcraft going on there. (laughs)
HRH: You were recently inducted to Guitar Center’s Rockwalk in Hollywood, what was that experience like?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Very Bizarre (laughs). I have time to reflect on it now. Apparently it is in the street already. The next time I go there I will see it. I remember walking those streets as teenager. Its amazing. I don’t know what else to say. Thank you, I am honored.
HRH: Is there anything you would like to tell your fans in closing?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I would like to say thank you. I would like everyone to check out my new record Perpetual Flame. If they have heard my stuff before they will dig it. If they haven’t I hope they will dig it. Thank you for the support for twenty years. God Bless You All! God Bless America!
Hinder is back and in a big way with their new release “Take It To the Limit”, which was released on Nov. 4th and rocketed into the Top 5 on the album charts. HRH recently had the chance to talk to Hinder’s skinman Cody Hanson not only about the new album but also, their upcoming tour with Motley Crue and the band’s love for Jaeger. With no one rushing us through the interview Cody and I ended up talking for close to 30 minutes so it is impossible to put everything we talked about down without it running for 3 or 4 pages. I have to say Cody is one of the coolest people I have interviewed, not only for HRH but going back to the days I worked in radio also. Enjoy!
HRH: “Take It To the Limit” is Hinder’s first album in 3 years, with the way the music scene changes so fast these days did the band worry about it taking so long to get the album out?
Cody Hanson: Actually yeah, that is always a concern whenever you are going in. But we were on the road so long and “Extreme Behavior” had so much life that we had to stay out on the road and tour on it as long as we could. But once we got finished we didn’t take a break except for maybe a week and a half if that, then we were writing and going into the studio shortly after so we definitely got it out there as quick as we could.
HRH: You worked with Brian Howes producing again. Did that make the process easier since you had worked with him on “Extreme Behavior”?
Cody Hanson: Oh definitely man! We work so well with Brian, he’s like our sixth member of the band. He’s one of our best friends and he’s amazing so anytime we can work with him it makes it a lot easier.
HRH: “Loaded & Alone” and “Far From Home” are two autobiographical songs. What are some other songs that came out of real life experiences?
Cody Hanson: Well, a lot of our songs are true life experiences, Almost every song on the album is an experience that one of us has had. Austin and I do the majority of the lyric writing but we pull things that we see happening to the rest of the guys as well or even some friends or family members.
HRH: You have a video for “Use Me” and have “Use Me’ and “Without You” on the radio. Are we going to see a video for “Without You” anytime soon?
Cody Hanson: Yeah it should be out already. I wanna say MTV2 just picked it up and Fuse might’ve picked it up I’m not sure. We shot it out in L.A. two or three weeks ago. We had Aimee Teegarden, from “Friday Night Lights” and Kellan Lutz from “Twilight” are both in it.
HRH: What are some of the other songs you would like to see released as singles?
Cody Hanson: Man you know what it is hard for me to say. I’m in love with the entire album, but “the Best Is Yet To Come” is my favorite song on the album so at some point I would definitely like to see that one released and “Up All Night” is another one I would like to see out there.
HRH: Everyone knows Mick Mars played lead and solos on the title track “Take It To the Limit” but he initially contacted you guys to write some songs together. What was your reaction when you found out Mick Mars wants to write songs with you?
Cody Hanson: It was pretty much holy sh*t you have to be f**king kidding me. All of us look up to Motley Crue and they are one of our biggest musical influences, so it is pretty crazy when someone you look up too like that calls and reaches out wanting to work with you, that’s pretty incredible.
HRH: Did anything come out of the writing sessions that we may be hearing in the future?
Cody Hanson: We actually never got a chance to write, but there is a good chance it might happen in the future we are going to be spending some time with them out on the road coming up pretty soon so we’ll see.
HRH: What do you think it is going to be like going out on the road with Motley Crue next year?
Cody Hanson: Um I don’t know man, I am not really sure what to expect because things are so much different then they used to be with those guys but I think it is going to be fun. It is going to be cool to get in front of Motley Crue fans, especially those that aren’t familiar with Hinder. It should be a blast for sure.
HRH: You guys are from Oklahoma City. When you were playing the clubs there did you ever think you would be hanging out with Mick Mars or Playboy Cybergirls, like the ones in the “Use Me” video?
Cody Hanson: I don’t know man I never really thought about it. We were just so focused on gaining new fans and doing what we had to do to get somewhere, at that point it was all business, of course we like to have a good time and stuff but we were really really focused on just getting our music out there. I definitely never thought it would be this way that is for sure.
HRH: You guys are out on the road right now with the Jaegermeister tour with Rev Theory and Trapt. How is that going?
Cody Hanson: It’s awesome we’ve been great friends with the Rev Theory guys for a long time so it’s always great to get back out on the road with them, live it up and have some good times. Of course Jaegermeister is amazing the company and the drink I think we drink more Jaeger than water so it’s great.
HRH: You installed a Jaeger machine on your tour bus so there has to be some wild road stories.
Cody Hanson: Yeah there are always stories, always good stuff going on. We actually just got one of the new pull styles machines and they gave us a road case for it so we can take it anywhere we want to go without it getting all messed up.
HRH: Your first album “Extreme Behavior” was out for a year before it actually hit big. Did the band get discouraged when it didn’t hit right off?
Cody Hanson: No not really, we knew it was going to be a very slow build like it is for any baby band. “Get Stoned” did really well for us, it got up to number 2 on the rock charts so we were moving some pretty good units off of that single alone and then of course when “Lips” hit things just got insanely crazy. We were just excited to be out touring and doing our thing.
HRH: “Lips of an Angel” was such a huge song. It is hard for a rock band to get respect when your first hit is a ballad?
Cody Hanson: Well I guess it depends on who you are talking about in the press and the reviews I read all the time there are so many people that just f**king hate us with a passion but all that matters to the band is our fans love the music that we write, if they pick up the album and the music touches them on some level and they come to the show ready to party then I don’t care what anybody else says.
HRH: Was there any pressure from the record company to write “Lips of an Angel 2”?
Cody Hanson: No it was pretty cool they were actually like nonexistent during the whole process. It gave us the chance to write the album that we wanted to write and record. I don’t know that they are so happy now but we’ll see.
HRH: AC/DC’s “Black Ice” was leaked weeks before the release date. How hard is it for bands to protect their music and make sure that doesn’t happen?
Cody Hanson: It’s pretty tough especially on the label end. Our A&R guy at the label keeps it on lock down, he is really careful about who he gives music too, he basically keeps it all to himself. We were able to have one version, he wasn’t even able to give it to everybody in the band that’s how careful they were.
HRH: Anything you would like to say before we wrap it up?
Cody Hanson: We are out on the road, so come see us and be ready to party and thanks to the fans that support us, we appreciate it they are the reason we do what we do.
A few days prior to the release of their latest album “Black Butterfly” I had an opportunity to talk to Buckcherry guitarist and co-founder Keith Nelson. Now almost two months since the release of the album I had the opportunity to talk to front-man Josh Todd not only about the new album and tour but also about his acting career and his opinion about President elect Barack Obama. I went into this interview with an idea Josh was a wild and crazy front-man but when the interview was over I was left with a completely different impression, in a good way.
HRH: Josh, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today.
Josh Todd: Sure, no problem
HRH: You guys are currently on the road with Avenged Sevenfold, Shinedown, and Saving Abel, how is the tour going so far?
Josh Todd: It was going great until we ran into a blizzard and couldn’t make it to our show tonight.
HRH: You played Billings, MT last night and were supposed to play Fargo tonight?
Josh Todd: Yeah last night was awesome.
HRH: Buckcherry.com has this line up of bands together till December. Who are some of the bands you are looking at taking out on the next leg?
Josh Todd: We are trying to figure that out right now as far as what we are going to do after the new year. But when we find out we’ll let everybody know.
HRH: What are the plans going into the new year for the band?
Josh Todd: Well we have this new album “Black Butterfly” and it has a lot of great songs so we are going to be putting in alot of time and effort to make sure everyone gets to hear the depth of this record like we did with “15” we toured two years and over 300 shows and we have already done 65 shows and the album hasn’t been out for two months yet. So we are just going to be touring and getting these songs out on the radio so everyone will know what’s going on here.
HRH: How many songs off of “Black Butterfly” are you able to include in the set?
Josh Todd: Let’s see, we play Rescue Me, Don’t Go Away, Too Drunk, and Cream so about four.
HRH: You have been covering “the Stroke” by Billy Squier live. Is that something we may see you guys releasing for maybe a soundtrack or a b-side?
Josh Todd: We don’t play the whole song, we do it as part of a medley with “Crazy Bitch” and the fans seem to like it.
HRH: Do you get to play any of the songs off of “You Made Me”?
Josh Todd: No
HRH: Are there any plans for another solo album?
Josh Todd: Not at the moment.
HRH: After 4 albums “Black Butterfly” is the first one to hit the Top 10. How big is that for the band?
Josh Todd: It is huge for us you know. We have been after this for a long time and that is something you dream about hitting milestones like that. We always want to elevate our game from record to record and that is what we try to do.
HRH: Buckcherry is on the third single and video with “Rescue Me” Are there plans to release more singles or videos from the album?
Josh Todd: Yeah everybody really loves “Rose” but right now we are focused on what we got going on with “Rescue Me” and “Don’t Go Away”. We’ll probably do something with “Rose” sometime after the new year.
HRH: When you release a new album is there a set number of singles that you plan on releasing or is it more of a wait and see approach?
Josh Todd: Sometimes we are clear on it, sometimes the singles change over the course of the album’s cycle. Songs we thought were going to be the one change because more people are hearing the music and we find out what everybody is really gravitating towards.
HRH: How much say does the band have in what songs are released as singles?
Josh Todd: Oh we have final say.
HRH: What other songs do you think might have been overlooked or didn’t get as much attention as they deserve?
Josh Todd: I personally like “All of Me” I think it is a masterpiece. Hopefully that will be a song, I mean there are already a lot of people that love that song but I think it is different for everybody.
HRH: I talked to Keith a few days before “Black Butterfly” release and he mentioned “Imminent Bailout” and “Cream” as two songs that were special on the album. What was the inspiration behind the lyrics of “Cream”?
Josh Todd: Cream is just about my love for music and being a music man and all the sacrifices you have to make to do this for a living. It’s my deepest love that is what it’s about.
HRH: You and Keith started Buckcherry because of a mutual love of AC/DC. Have you had a chance to hear “Black Ice”?
Josh Todd: I did I have the record, but I thought Stiff Upper Lip was a better record. But there are a couple of songs I really like, I like the first single “Rock-n-Roll Train” and there is another song called “Anything Goes” where Brian is singing with a lot more meoldy and I thought that was cool. As a whole I didn’t think the record was a great record but it is a good rock-n-roll record.
HRH: You are 37 now, can you see Buckcherry still together and performing when you are in your late 50’s early 60’s?
Josh Todd: No I don’t know why anyone would want to see that.
HRH: You were in a band called Slamhound prior to Buckcherry and I found a demo a few years ago at a record store in San Francisco. Will there ever be an “official” release of Slamhound’s music?
Josh Todd: No probably not that band hasn’t been together for years. I really enjoyed that band when I was in it but I doubt I’ll be putting anything out.
HRH: I want to change gears here a little bit if you don’t mind. Are you a political person?
Josh Todd: Nope
HRH: Do you have an opinion about President elect Barack Obama?
Josh Todd: I really like his energy plan that is something I really like but i’m not too excited about the taxes. But as far as what this guy is made of I just don’t think we know yet you know. As a whole as far as both candidates were concerned I just wish we had more choices, because I think a lot of people were on the fence with both parties. I think it is really to soon to see what is going to happen with Obama I mean we’ll see. He has to back all of his words I mean he’s got a very difficult job. I definitely wouldn’t want to be handling it. I congratulate him for his courage to take on this incredible task and hopefully he will do it with grace and really bring something to the office.
HRH: You recently had a part in the movie Eagle Eye and you have had parts in the New Guy and Salton Sea along with a couple of t.v. shows. Do you see acting as something you would like to get more serious about as far as pursuing some bigger roles or is it more of something to do when you have down time from Buckcherry?
Josh Todd: I would love to get a bigger role because I love challenges but we are never home. We tour so much that it is really hard for me to get gigs. When I’m home I get to do stuff here and there but I would love to be challenged with acting bigger than what I’ve done.
HRH: What was it like working with Val Kilmer on Salton Sea?
Josh Todd: Wow Val is like, he is an incredible guy to watch, he is a great great actor and he really taught me a lot. He was very nice to me at that point in time, he understood my situation that it was the first movie I had ever done. He was very instrumental and kind of pushing me along and I am very grateful to him for that. I just thought he was a joy to work with.
HRH: Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers before I let you go?
Josh Todd: I would just encourage them to go out and pick up a copy of “Black Butterfly” if they haven’t already and to check out Buckcherry.com to see where we are at and come out to the show and have a blast.
2008 has been a pretty good year for Tesla. They have released a new DVD, “Comin’ At Ya Live” and a new CD, “Forever More“. When the opportunity came up to interview Brian Wheat from Tesla, I couldn’t pass it up. Tesla has been one of my favorite bands for a very long time now. Brian and I talked about Forever More, the current Tesla tour and more. Check out the interview below. Enjoy!
HRH: I have seen Tesla live a couple of times in the last year on the Real to Reel Tour. Dave Rude is fitting in well with the band. How did you guys find Dave ?
Brian Wheat: Frank found Dave on myspace. It is pretty well documented that we were having problems with Tommy Skeoch. When it came to start looking for someone to replace him, Frank started looking at myspace, and people in the Sacramento area. Dave is from Oakland, California so he was pretty close by.
HRH: Do you still keep in touch with Tommy Skeoch?
Brian Wheat: No, I don’t keep in touch with Tommy at all.
HRH: Forever More is the first album with new studio material with Dave Rude. What
musical influences does he bring to Tesla?
Brian Wheat: Dave likes Guns ‘N Roses, Tesla and Motley Crue. A Lot of the new stuff out there he listens to as well. He is 30 years old. Frank is 42 years old, I am 44. He brings a younger spark, and a lot of positivity to the band. He is a great guitar player. We all wrote the songs together on this album. He has a positive attitude and money can’t buy that.
HRH: What are some of the circumstances the band was going through that inspired the songs on “Forever More”?
Brian Wheat: There was a lot going on. People coming to life changing decisions. The general gist is that we didn’t want to put up with any more bullshit. We just wanted to move forward. Just like the song “I Wanna Live”. I wanna live before I die and I don’t want the world to pass me buy. “Breaking Free” is we are done with the negativity, lets get on with positivity.
HRH: When Tesla prepares to record a new album how many songs do you usually go into
the studio with and what happens to the songs that do not make the albums?
Brian Wheat: We go in with ideas for songs with bits and pieces. We brought in Terry Thomas for this record. Even with the ideas that we had, he stripped them down to their basic form and we rewrote them all. In the end it came out great. While we were doing it there were some growing pains. When it was all said and done the results came out brilliantly. The songs that didn’t make it on the album were ideas that we didn’t finish.
HRH: What songs are you current favorites on the new record?
Brian Wheat: I like “Falling Apart”, “I Wanna Live”, “Breaking Free”, “First Time”, and “Forever More“.
Brian Wheat: We have a guy that works with us Dwayne Serfass. Frank(Hannon) had this idea that he wanted to call the album Eternity, and none of us are eternal and none of us were too keen on that. We had a song on the album called Forever More which much means the same thing. Once we agreed on the theme, Dwayne found this photo of these two bodies buried in Pompeii that was 4000 years old. They were buried together embracing each other. The photo is called the “eternal embrace”. That is where the skeletons come from. It is a well noted photo.
HRH: What songs from Forever More will you be performing on tour?
Brian Wheat: We are playing six songs. We will probably play each of them at one point in time. I can’t tell you which ones. We have only been on tour for a week.
HRH: How long will you be out on the Forever More tour?
Brian Wheat: The better part of this year and see what evolves with this record. We will probably do 4 or 5 legs in America. We will hit Europe, Japan and Australia and see what is left. We want to play everywhere we can. We usually do a month on and 3 weeks off, that way we don’t burn ourselves out.
HRH: Tesla played in a couple of big rock festivals in the U.S. this year, The South Texas Rock Festival and Rocklahoma. What was your Rocklahoma experience like?
Brian Wheat: That was great. Those guys do a really good job on that. They keep expanding and keep coming up with new ideas. It was a really nice festival that was reminiscent of the festivals we have played in Europe. There are a lot of festivals in the summer there. It was good.
HRH: Will you be playing in any U.S. Music Festivals in 2009?
Brian Wheat: In America? I don’t know. The question is do we do Rocklahoma two years in a row or do we wait a year. That is kind of the question that has been posed. There may be a Texas Jam next summer.
HRH: There is a new festival called Rock Gone Wild that will be in Iowa next summer, that has 5 or 6 bands lined up to play so far.
Brian Wheat: That will probably be something that may end up playing.
HRH: Your new video for” I Wanna Live” came out really cool. Do you have plans to do any more videos for Forever More?
Brian Wheat: Yes, absolutely. We are doing a lot more stuff in house. We have our art department, we have our own recording studio, we have our video department. We are pretty self sufficient. If we want to do something we can do it. If we were in a situation where we were on a major label, that might not have always happened.
HRH: You are current on the road with Pop Evil. How has the tour been going so far? How did you meet those guys?
Brian Wheat: A guy that works radio manages them. George Capalini, he sent us a disc, and we liked it, and we put them on the tour. They are out there promoting their record, trying to bring in new fans and young fans. They are good guys.
HRH: What is the status of the Tesla box set?
Brian Wheat: The Tesla box set is currently on hold. Until we and Universal can come to a mutual agreement and understanding of the box set, it is on hold. We wanted to get it out by our 20th anniversary, maybe it will be the 25th anniversary. We just don’t know.
HRH: Is there any unreleased or cover material in the box set?
Brian Wheat: There is some stuff. I just don’t know if we are going release more cover stuff. We did two records of covers. The box set will be material with Tommy Skeoch. We did release some additional cover songs on iTunes on “A Peace of Time”. There were two or three covers. The version of “I Love You” and the Bread song (“Everything I Own”), those two came out really good. Lets hope that we all see the box set. It is kind of in Universal’s court right now.
HRH: Is it easier to get music out to the fans since Tesla now has their own label?
Brian Wheat: Yes and no. It is young. How does your music get out there? Is out on iTunes yet? You have to look for it. The way most people find out about music is the radio. Some stations still think Tesla is really relevant and some stations don’t. It is hard because you have to convince them that band still is relevant. I don’t think that wouldn’t matter with a large label, or our a label of our own. You can’t buy radio time, its against the law. You just have to go out and swing the bat you have.
HRH: Do you have plans to signing additional bands to your label?
Brian Wheat: No, Tesla Electric Company is just for Tesla.
HRH: A lot of bands are releasing their music as downloadable content for sale in the
video games Guitar Hero and Rockband. Any chance the Tesla catalog will be made
available this way?
Brian Wheat: Absolutely, yes.
HRH: In closing, do you have anything you would like to tell your fans?
Brian Wheat: Go out and buy the new record, I think you will enjoy it. Come out and see us this year on the Forever More tour, if we play in your city or a city near you.
That was the way the interview closed. Brian had another interview call to make and we were a little over on time. Brian was very cool and easy to talk to. I am looking forward to catching Tesla on the road on the Forever More tour!
If you haven’t picked up a copy of the new album, click on the cover below to place your order today!
I don’t make it a secret that Buckcherry is one of my favorite bands out there so of course I jumped at the chance for the opportunity to interview guitarist Keith Nelson. I thought it was a great interview, there were a lot of questions I didn’t get to ask because there wasn’t enough time but that is ok I will save them for the next time. Here is what he had to say, Enjoy!
HRH: Buckcherry recently wrapped up the inaugural Cruefest, how did you think the tour went
Keith Nelson: I thought it was phenomenal, a lot of fun
HRH: What were some of the other bands on the bill that you watched when you had a chance?
Keith Nelson: Papa Roach they are a great live band and of course the Crue they were just over the top.
HRH: Do you think Buckcherry will go out with Cruefest next year?
Keith Nelson: Definitely if we get the chance.
HRH: Buckcherry did over 300 shows in support of 15 are you looking at the same kind of tour for “Black Butterfly”?
Keith Nelson: We were thinking of maybe 600 or 700. Just kidding, Yeah you know we are a live band and that is what we do so going out on the road and living out on the pirate strip as they call it and making rock-n-roll 6 nights a week is kinda what we do.
HRH: 15 was recorded in 15 days how long did it take to record “Black Butterfly”?
Keith Nelson: 21 days on this record
HRH: When it comes to writing is everyone involved or is it you and Josh?
Keith Nelson: Everyone is involved, every song ultimately ends up in the room with all 5 guys weighing in regardless of where it starts. A lot of times Josh and I will come up something, get it pretty much completed, take it in and start rehearsing it. I want to hear what the other guys in my band think of it and see if they have any ideas.
HRH: Is there a story behind the title “Black Butterfly”?
Keith Nelson: Not really, well I guess the only story is there was a song called “Black Butterfly” that we all loved but ultimately didn’t make the record. Not because it was inferior to anything else but in the big picture of the record that piece just didn’t seem to fit, we loved it and certainly it will see the light of day at some point. But when we were coming up with concepts for the cover the image of the Black Butterfly was kind of stuck in my head so I proposed that as the title of the record and everyone seemed to like it.
HRH: So far there are 3 songs available for the fans to hear with, Too Drunk, Rescue Me, and Don’t Go Away, what are some of the other songs you like off the album?
Keith Nelson: Well there is a song called “Cream” that ends the record that is a pretty special song. It was written and rewritten and left for dead and then rewritten again and that is one of my favorite songs on the record. There is a song called “Imminent Bailout” which I think is probably one of the best rock songs I’ve ever written as far as sheer rock-n-roll intensity. There are so many songs, there is a song called “Rose” that I think is a great stretch for us as far as sonically in our approach to songwriting. Man there is a lot of great songs on the record.
HRH: Was the band surprised by the reaction of “Too Drunk” when it was leaked?
Keith Nelson: You know it is crazy how that all went down cause we actually finished mixing the record on a Sunday and 3 or 4 days later we left to start Cruefest, while that was all kind of going on while we were out of the road. Obviously it is in our best interest to present our record in a very structured, you know thought out way and with all the songs being passed around to different people for mastering, remixing, and what not unfortunately that song leaked. In this day and age we just kind of make the best of what we got so once the song was out there we just kind of had to follow it but it wasn’t our first choice for what the single was going to be.
HRH: You always have extra songs on the singles and imports, has there ever been any talk of putting out a B-sides album?
Keith Nelson: Yeah, I mean there hasn’t actually been any talk but it’s funny because early on the B-sides were very much, well you could tell why those songs weren’t on the record and now the left over tracks are as good as anything on the record but you can only put so many songs on a record. You never know I’m sure at some point after we have more of a discography behind us there will be some more special stuff.
HRH: After “Time Bomb” Buckcherry went on hiatus and you and Josh end up recording some songs with the guys from Velvet Revolver. The story goes there were 10 or so songs recorded is there a chance they will ever be made available to the public?
Keith Nelson: Well what happened with those songs is they were actually live recordings that we would make in a rehearsal room, they were multi-tracked. We didn’t make a record but we did do a very detailed recording of them in a live situation. They do exist, I do have them but they will never see the light of day.
HRH: In the past you played with Huck Johns and now he is playing with JB, Devon, and Yogi in a project called Black Robot. Is that something you helped put together?
Keith Nelson: I have no knowledge of that and know nothing about it.
HRH: Legend has it that you and Josh started Buckcherry because you both love AC/DC. Have you had a chance to hear their new single yet?
Keith Nelson: No but I am so excited about the new AC/DC record you have no idea.
HRH: With Cruefest finished and “Black Butterfly” tour starting up who are some of the bands you are looking at opening for you?
Keith Nelson: Well we start this next leg of the tour in a few days with Avenged Sevenfold, Shinedown, and Saving Abel, which are all great bands that is going to be a fun, fun tour. Airbourne is awesome, I would love to have Airbourne and we are actually going to do some dates with those guys in Japan.
HRH: If you could put together a Cherryfest and you could have any 5 bands past or present on the bill who would it be?
Keith Nelson: Well we would have AC/DC close the show for us and we would go on right before them. Right before us or maybe flip flopping every night we would have Stone Temple Pilots and Rage Against the Machine and I would probably get Muddy Waters to start things off.
And with that we wrapped the interview up, like I said earlier I think it was a great interview, very relaxed and laid back Keith was extremely easy to talk too. I definitely look forward to talking to him again if and when I get the chance.
Hard Rock Hideout recently got the opportunity to do a Q & A with the band Black Tide. The band has a brand new CD coming out in March, called Light From Above. I have listened to it, and it is going to blow people away!
HRH: Tell us how Black Tide got its start?
BT: Well, we started out almost 5 years ago, when we were called Radio, playing at backyard parties and the one small local club in our area. We just practiced a lot in the garage and living room, always trying to write new songs and just play everywhere that we could. We played at the Florida Music Festival and kinda just got this buzz about our band running through the industry. We talked to a lot of labels and even singed a demo deal with Atlantic records at one point. After enough time had wasted, we moved on and signed a deal with Interscope Records.
HRH: How long have you been playing?
BT: I have been playing the bass for about 5 years now, I pretty much started the day I joined this group.
HRH: What are the ages of the members of Black Tide?
BT: Gabriel (singer and guitar) is 15, Alex (guitar) is 18, Steven (drummer) is 19, and I am also 19 (Zakk).
HRH: Who are some of your musical influences?
BT: My musical influences come from all over and I really have no preference about what I listen to. I listen to Van Halen, Drive-By Truckers, The Velvet Underground, Regina Spektor, and Lupe Fiasco. That’s what I’m listeneing to lately anyway.
HRH: What is one of the last concerts that you attended (that you did not perform at)?
BT:I think the last concert I attended was Stone Sour and Dirty Little Rabbits, and that was like 6 months ago. I wish I could just go to see more concerts but I never have time anymore.
HRH: What are some of the CD’s that you are listening to today?
BT: I’ve been really enjoying The Drive-By Truckers new album, Brighter Than Creations Dark. It’s just so all over the place and I can’t really get enough of it.
Southern Rock is what I’m in the mood for lately. I’m also listening to Velvet Underground’s amazing masterpiece The Velvet Underground & Nico.
HRH: In 2007, You played on the Ozzfest tour. What was that experience like?
BT: Waking up everyday and realizing that we were playing on one of the biggest traveling metal tours was insane! That tour was our introduction to real touring and we learned a lot from all the bands and crews.
What’s cooler than getting to say that we shared the stage with Ozzy and we aren’t even old enough to drink.
HRH: Do you have some good stories from Ozzfest that you would like to share? Did you get to meet Ozzy?
We don’t really have any crazy stories from the Ozzfest tour, we got hazed pretty bad on the last day, but nothing really amazing. We were kept on a pretty tight leash because of being underage. We sadly enough didn’t get to meet Ozzy, and we were pretty bummed about it.
HRH: You are currently on tour with Avenged Sevenfold. How is that going? How have the A7X fans reacted to Black Tide?
BT: Touring with A7X has been fucking great! The fans have been really open to us and are really into the music and what we are trying to accomplish. All the guys in the band have been really cool with us and their crew is fantastic.
HRH: You have already toured across the United States and Europe. What are your plans in 2008, when your tour with A7X concludes?
BT: Our plans are to just tour as much as humanly possible. That’s the only thing we really want to do anyway. I don’t really know any specifics at this moment but we should have something announced pretty soon.
HRH: Your new CD, Light From Above, will be released in March.What can you tell us about the new CD?
BT: I can tell you that every song is great and we took our time to make sure that each song was well crafted and as good as we could possibly make it.
HRH: Is there anything you would like to tell your fans?
BT: Thank you guys for supporting us and we can’t wait for all of you to hear our album and we hope to see you all soon!
The band has recently announced a tour with All That Remains in February and March! You can hear two of their new songs on their myspace page. Go Check them out today!
I had the opportunity to interview Dave Evans last week.
We talked about his past with AC/DC, as well as some the other bands he has been with over the years, and his current plans with his band, “The Badasses”. Check out the Podcast below for the interview! Just click on the link to listen!!
|Hard Rock Hideout Feature Interview : Sophia Ramos|
Sophia is one of the most power female singers that I have heard in years. She has the right look, attitude and most importantly, the talent that should take
her far in the music business.
In fact, Sophia has won the VH1’s best unsigned artist award, and still hasn’t earned the success she so right fully deserves.
Judging by the great sounds of her last disc, Her Majesty, Sophia’s amazing vocal talent isn’t going to allow her to stay undiscovered for long.
Sophia took some time out of her busy schedule for an Interview at the Hard Rock Hideout!
Rob Rockitt: Hi Sophia, How are you doing today?
Sophia Ramos: I am pretty swamped with work. I have been finishing up a bunch of interviews. Princess Tai Poe has been keeping me pretty busy.
Rob Rockitt: I would like to expose you and your music to the readers at the Hard Rock Hideout. I think your music is a great fit for that 70’s and 80’s Hard Rock sound that I keep my readers informed about.
Sophia Ramos: I take it as a compliment that people who like 80’s hard rock would even dig what I do. I think my stuff is more in line with 70’s hard rock. The tone of it is a lot warmer. I grew up on all that stuff, like Van Halen and the great music from the 80’s but my main influences came from Aerosmith, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.
Rob Rockitt: I can hear some Janis Joplin style in your music.
Sophia Ramos: Most definitely. I think if you are a chick in Rock and Roll, and you want to perform with the big boys, Janis Joplin is your bible, or your starting point as a woman. To really see how a woman can get all blood guts and glory in her music. You have to give kudos to Janis.
Rob Rockitt: At what age did you start singing and recording music?
Sophia Ramos: I have been singing all my life. I discovered I could sing when I was 8 years old. I used to sing in church. I left home at 16 and
started doing gigs, and I first recorded when I was 17. It has been a lot of
Rob Rockitt: What drew you to Rock and Roll Music?
Sophia Ramos: I am just naturally rebellious and irreverent. Rock and Roll is the soundtrack for that type of personality. For someone who can see the hilarity in humanity and the sarcasm, but also the beauty and the rage. When you hear that guitar riff and the band is just thumping, and and you throw your hands in the air, and it just grabs your soul. That is what rock music has always done to me.
Rob Rockitt: I have been listening to your CD, Her Majesty, and have been enjoying it quite a bit. This CD rocks hard! I especially like the guitar riffs on Black Madonna and Esperanza. I think people will be blown away by the great tunes on your CD!
Sophia Ramos: I have been very lucky that I have had very positive reviews for Her Majesty. That powerful guitar riff was written by my producer and co-writer Billy White, who also had a stint in Don Dokken’s solo band.
Rob Rockitt: What kind of music are you listening to today?
Sophia Ramos: I listen to a lot of different stuff. Surprisingly, even though my music is hard rock, I like anything that is good. There haven’t really been a whole lot of new singers that made me go “Holy Shit”. I am listening to this R&B chick, Amy Winehouse, I love the quality of her voice. I am listening to this black rock band called The Family Stand, that is a mix between Bad Brains and Prince and Sly and the Family Stone. They are really great. There is this chick that has this incredible voice, that is a Country Western singer, Brandi Carlile that I have also been listening to.
Rob Rockitt: You were on tour with a bunch of rock bands on the 1996 Lalapalooza Tour. What was that experience like?
Sophia Ramos: My first instinct was I was going to have a sexual liberating experience but that didn’t happen. Rock stars are really shy, and not really as outrageous as they appear. I met all the guys from Soundgarden. I made friends with Joey Ramone and the Ramones. I made friends with Jason Newsted from Metallica, and the guys from Rancid and the Screaming Trees. I met Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age. My favorite was meeting Rage Against the Machine. I have never seen that kind of audience response, in all the years I have gone to see concerts. I have never seen such a hypnotic response by a crowd. That was amazing!
Rob Rockitt: You recorded some songs with Jason Newsted on one of his projects.
Sophia Ramos: I love him. He is an incredible human being, a great musician and is very professional. When we met on the Lalapalooza tour and became friends. He invited me to jam in his studio in San Francisco. I went up there and we jammed and started writing on new stuff and co-existing stuff that he put down but didnt have any vocals on. He had some lyric ideas and I had some lyric ideas. We started recording some stuff, and next thing you know it became a 2 year project. We recorded about 10 – 12 songs. We had some interest from Elektra records. That all fizzled out because Jason had to get back on the road with Metallica. We are still friends. I hope one day he will still release it.
Rob Rockitt: Your band Sophia’s Toy was once signed to Sony’s Epic Records. What happened there?
Sophia Ramos: I almost don’t want to tell this story, because I don’t want to show myself in a negative image, that I don’t feel part of anymore. I don’t(Laughs) I got signed and it was a big deal, and all this hype. I did this really kick ass record. Before the record could come out, my A & R guy took me to breakfast and said they were not releasing the record. The marketing people felt that it was be too costly to market my record because I am a woman of color. We don’t think kids in Iowa will get who you are. I had to sit with that for a few years and it that was kind of devastating to me. I do realize that experience taught me a lot about the issues in this country that we still need to deal with. Nobody wants to talk about them. People get uncomfortable. I really do understand. I don’t feel like I subscribe to any of that. I do my music. I don’t care what my color is. The guys in my band don’t care what I look like. The audience doesn’t care what I look like. They care about the musical content. In the music industry in America and probably the world, your looks are what really defines you and not what you are saying or your content. That is kind of sad.
Rob Rockitt: Were you able to reuse any of that material that you recorded with Sony on Her Majesty?
Sophia Ramos: No, Her Majesty is all new material that I wrote with Billy White. I do have re-recording rights for the disc I did with Sony. You might really dig that. It was pretty heavy stuff mixed with some fusion.
Rob Rockitt: Do you have any intentions of re-recording that disc some day?
Sophia Ramos: No, but I have been in contact with Beau Hill who was the producer within the last month. We might have to see about releasing that material.
Rob Rockitt: What are some of your favorite songs off of Her Majesty?
Sophia Ramos: Oh Man, I really dig Kill Your Pain. It has one of the funkiest drum grooves, and the bridge is so rockin’. And then I love Torn Down. It such arena rock and roll. Black Madonna, because of the story that it tells. I like the last tune (Stay Here With You) because it is a very personal kind of song. I really put my heart into it when I was singing it.
Rob Rockitt: What is a typical day for you now?
Sophia Ramos: I am currently in Arizona doing this Love Janis show. It is a theater production of the life of Janis Joplin. It was all written by Janis Joplin by her and letters that she has written. I have one show left and will be going home to New York soon.
Rob Rockitt: What are you currently working on?
Sophia Ramos: I wanted to make another rocking album. I have gotten together with Billy White and recorded the album in Austin, TX. We wrote a bunch of songs together. It is a bit of departure from Her Majesty. There are some rocking heavy guitar based songs. We kind of went a little bit in another place, because we were just having fun. It was laid back, and we didn’t have the hectic New York City vibe that we usually have when we record. I noticed when I was writing and recording that there was a theme and the songs were tying together. The songs are about what was happening politically now in the world, what it is like to live in the modern age with the Internet, and Internet dating, and what it is like to live in a world that is not homogeneous to live in a society with all these different cultures. The second album is called Revelator. I don’t want to give away too much, but I hope you dig it.
Rob Rockitt: When do you expect Revelator to be released?
Sophia Ramos: It is 95% complete. I go back to New York next week to do some tweaking and remixing and master it. I don’t have the artwork and stuff ready. I am working with a great rock and roll artist, Justin Hampton We are trying to create something very unique for the record’s visuals. I am hoping by September that we can release it.
Rob Rockitt: On your new record, do you have any special guests?
Sophia Ramos: Me and Billy White recorded the tunes in Austin, and used some local Austin guys. My drummer wasn’t available. He is drumming on the new Chris Cornell record. We wanted to go kind of low-fi on this record. We wanted to get away from that bombastic sound. It is still hard driving rock and roll. There is more of an organic feel on this record. There is a vibe to this record that is really great. I do have a special guest, Kate Russo, she is the baddest rock and roll violin player out there. She kicks ass.
Rob Rockitt: Do you have plans to tour for Revelator?
Sophia Ramos: (Laughs) If I make any money! If there is a budget for it, for sure. I will let you know!
Rob Rockitt: Sophia, Thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to me today!
Sophia Ramos: Thank you for supporting me and my music!